Riverdale Explores Serial Killer Fandom in Its Latest Episode

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This RIVERDALE review contains spoilers.

Riverdale Season 6 Episode 17

“This is who I am Arch, this is what I do.”

Traditionally, Riverdale‘s musical episode has been the annual installment when all hell breaks loose. So it was a bit unexpected how different this season’s song-packed offering played out. Instead of carnage, we witnessed an understated character exploration that focused on how conflicted Betty is about the dueling portions of her personality. Having been groomed by her father — aka The Black Hood — since childhood to become a serial killer, she increasingly feels the pull towards embracing her dark passenger.

With Veronica’s help she stages Slaughter Con, a serial killer fan gathering, at Babylonium, hoping to draw out TBK and stop him once and for all. Assisting her is Agent Drake and Archie, which leads to yet another of this series’ trademark love triangles. Turns out that Drake has feelings for Betty. Correctly stating that Betty does not have to compartmentalize with her the way she does Archie, Drake awakens a curiosity within Cooper. “Everyone compartmentalizes with everyone,” Veronica tells Betty, before reading Drake the riot act for further complicating her BFF’s already tumultuous life. It really is great when the writers lean into how B and V always have each other’s backs, as is the case here.

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But Betty’s romantic woes don’t end there. TBK thinks that he and Betty are soulmates, and that they can be a serial killer power couple. (Sadly, this doesn’t happen and they don’t get business cards made, missing a huge chance to tie into the episode’s American Psycho musical theme, but I digress). Thus Betty is torn between her commitment to the eternally good Archie, her fully honest relationship with Agent Drake, and the dark appeal that TBK offers.

This conflict rips Betty apart as each of the three offers her a chance to fully embrace not only who she is, but who she will become. Not unexpectedly, she ultimately chooses Archie, even while trying to pull away from him. After refusing TBK’s offer to take his side, she kills him, putting an end to his murderous ways once and for all. We see a lingering shot of his lifeless body, just to clear up any ambiguity about whether or not Betty actually did shoot him. With this being Riverdale, death tends to be uncertain, but that isn’t the case here — which is a relief as the TBK saga never quite became anything more than an economy brand version of The Silence of the Lambs.

Returning to Archie after the deed is done, she explains how she feels that the evil that drove Hal Cooper/The Black Hood is inside of her too. Betty fears that this darkness will one day consume her, and then Archie. Not even addressing how he is, you know, invulnerable now, Archie reinforces how he won’t ever give up on her and he knows that her inner light will prevail. (He’s a pretty great boyfriend actually). Betty decides to let his light guide her, and the pair declares their love. Whatever the future may hold for them, they will face it together.

This was a bit of an odd installment as there was so much going on besides the core Betty/TBK wrapup. (More on this below). It didn’t really take advantage of the musical format with the exception of some fun performances that made the American Psycho stuff feel like a forced afterthought. Lili Reinhart as always emotes Betty’s inner conflict perfectly. But without ever learning much about TBK’s motives, the depths of his crimes and why exactly he was so obsessed with Betty in the first place, his downfall feels arbitrary and unearned. Yet another example of this show discarding a villain in an unsatisfactory fashion. As it does.

Riverdale Rundown

• Reggie doesn’t appear in this episode, which is a real shame as he would’ve been a much better fit to portray Patrick Bateman than Kevin.

• I would like a Slaughter Con T-shirt, please and thank you.

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Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa adapted Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho for the stage, a fact Veronica conveniently ignores to mention in her praise of the show. The show itself was a mixture of original songs by Duncan Sheik and re-recordings of 1980’s club favorites like New Order’s “True Faith,” making it a suitably jarring musical experience. One final note: Matt Smith portrayed Bateman in the U.K. run of the show, and his performance in captured in the musical’s official soundtrack.

• Since Jughead is busy trying to figure out how to stop the voices in his head (including echoes of Rivervale), this is a rare narration-free installment of Riverdale.

• Percival Pickens mentions that Bailey’s Comet is integral to his plans (whatever they may be). The celestial event was also a key plot point of Rivervale’s fourth episode — the one that brought Sabrina to town.

• Speaking of which, Heather mentions how the women of Riverdale party better than those in Greendale. Although not explicitly stated yet, it’s beyond likely that she and Sabrina belong to the same coven.

• Kevin again illustrates what a terrible father he would be by inadvertently putting Anthony in danger by participating in Cheryl’s spell against Fangs and Toni’s impending marriage.

• Since this installment was focused on resolving the TBK storyline (which has spanned two seasons), Percival’s antics were largely backseated, with the Archie/strike stuff mainly just being wheel-spinning fodder to remind viewers of what a mind-controlling jerk Pickens is.

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• Slaughter Con gave Riverdale a fun chance to revisit its history as “the murder capital of the U.S.A.” complete with The Black Hood cosplay and a Gryphons and Gargoyles tournament. And I thought DragonCon was wild.

• The convention was also the backdrop for this episode’s funniest moment: Dr. Curdle Jr. being a part of Kevin’s performance.

• Whenever Katy Keene gets a mention it feels like a pointed F.U. to CW exec for that show’s premature cancellation.

• The endgame of this season begins when Riverdale returns on June 26th. Can’t wait.

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